There certainly is no shortage of ways to profit from the internet. Virtual ventures are a dime a dozen, and the internet is not just known for the speed of information, but also for the speed at which it can fill (or empty) your wallet.
I review tons of products here on One More Cup of Coffee, and though lots of them can help you turn a few dollars here or there, very rarely do I find one that I consider a way to make money long term. In fact, many people who invest in any of these types of “how to make money” products, just end up jumping from one product to the next, looking for the secret method of getting rich overnight.
So, after 6 years of operation, I've compiled this list of legitimate ways to make money online. Though I won't go into detail for all of them (I haven't actually made money in every single category), at least you'll be able to verify that, “Yes”, these are legitimate business strategies.
So, here are eight completely honest, legitimate ways to make money online that could actually provide you with income for many years in the future. Remember, no matter what method you choose, it's going to take hard work to actually turn a profit. You'll probably struggle for at least a few months before making your first sale, and it'll most likely be six months, a year, or more before you are making enough money to go full time.
Table of Contents
Legitimate Ways To Make Money Online
1. Amazon Product Reviews
Writing reviews on Amazon is easy to get started with, which makes it a great choice for newbies. The only thing you’ll really need to get started is a website, which costs about $14 for a good domain name and $20-$50 per month for website hosting.
To be successful, your website will need to focus on a niche. Choose a niche that is something you love and can be passionate about or something you’re good at. Your enthusiasm for the topic will help you write good articles about it that can make you money.
Golfers might want to write about golfing equipment, for example, and people who like baking might write comparison reviews of different brands of mixers, muffin tins and cookie sheets, and kitchen storage containers.
Research keywords to see what kinds of topics other people are already searching for. Then think about the kinds of products that naturally tie into what you want to talk about. Start planning how you’ll review these products and what you might write about them.
Once your website is in place, you can sign up as an Amazon Affiliate. There’s no monthly fee or sign-on charge, so it’s a safe place to test the waters and see if running an online company is for you.
As an Amazon Affiliate, you’ll promote products that are for sale on Amazon by writing reviews about them on your own website. If your reviews lead to a sale, you’ll get a percentage of the sales price as a commission.
2. Display Ads & Contextual Ads
You’ll need a niche website for this business model, too, because you’ll need a place for display ads to appear (sometimes called contextual ads when they appear as links instead of images). Money comes only through ads placed on your website, you won’t have to worry about writing reviews and adding affiliate links, which makes your job easier!
The main trick to making money from ads placed on your website is to make sure you’re getting a lot of traffic. To bring in traffic means you’ll need to create a lot of good content that people will want to share over and over again.
To brainstorm ways to increase traffic to your website, think about your niche. If you’re into horses, for example, you might create simple memes that include pictures of horses and share them on your social media sites with a link back to your website. People who like the memes will share them and hopefully drive traffic to your site, where they will also see the ads. A more simple tactic could be just to create interesting titles for your article that encourage clicking on Twitter or Facebook, like “10 Unbelievable Facts About Horses Before They Were Domesticated.”
You’ll get a small payment for every time a website visitor clicks on one of the ads on your site.
Google AdSense is the best known way to make money through display ads, but there are some downsides. It’s really easy to get banned from Google AdSense due to their strict rules, and the company doesn’t have to tell you why you are banned.
There are other options out there for display ads, though. You can check into Criteo, MediaVine and Media.net. They may not pay as much as AdSense, but sometimes going with a different ad partner makes a lot of sense.
3. Writing Communities like HubPages, Xomba, Etc.
If you like researching and then writing to share what you’ve learned, you might do well on a writing community site. You don’t need a website because the community writing sites post your work for you, and pay you a portion of their ad revenue (from display ads).
Making money on a writing community site is similar to posting contextual ads on your own website. You’ll publish informational articles on a variety of topics—usually something you’re interested in sharing with the world—and the community site places ads and other money-making options around it. You share revenue with the supporting site.
HubPages, for example, has its own ad program, but it also partners with Google AdSense, Amazon Affiliates, and eBay’s affiliate program. This means that if you have accounts with AdSense, Amazon Affiliates and eBay, you can monetize your writing pages in more than one way.
How you get paid, and how well these websites pay varies, and there are some major downsides to consider. The main issue with posting content on a community rather than your own website is twofold. One, you have to play by their rules, so you may not be able to write things exactly how you want to post them. From a more practical perspective, this also means you are limited to the formatting style of their website.
4. Retail Arbitrage
Arbitrage is all about taking advantage of price differences on the same product in different markets. Basically, you buy stuff for cheap and sell it for more. The best example of this is buying items in a regular store like Target, then selling them on Amazon. Your Target store may be running a discount or getting rid of bulk items, but these particular items could be hard to find online, or at least demand a higher price.
For example, if you found a really great sale on Marvel action figures and could buy them in bulk, you could turn around and sell them for higher prices on your Amazon FBA storefront.
You could turn a decent profit if you set your selling price right. There are some things to keep in mind, though!
One, make sure the items you’re buying aremarked down enough to provide a decent profit margin. You still have shipping/storage fees and returns to factor in.
Two, double check to make sure there’s a market for the items you’re buying. You don’t want to invest money in something that just won’t sell, even if it’s on sale. Sometimes stuff is cheap because nobody wants it.
The advantage to arbitrage, at least the kind that leverages Amazon and Ebay, is that you don't need a website. You could possibly develop your own ecommerce store though, and sell/ship through your own marketplace, but you'd probably need a focused niche and reliable product line to pull that off.
5. Drop Shipping
Drop shipping is similar to arbitrage, except instead of buying from other retailers, you source your products from suppliers and resell them on sites like Amazon or Ebay. You never touch the product itself. The customer orders from you, you notify the supplier, then the supplier ships it out.
It sounds super easy because you're not involved in the making or distribution of the product (let alone customer service!). However, you're responsible for marketing and selling a product that every other drop shipper in the world has access to as well.
Are you savvy enough to distinguish your store against another store selling the same thing?
Many people make money online this way, it's just not as easy as you might think (every business is challenging in some way!)
You can browse through sites such as Sunrise Wholesale, Dropship Direct and Doba to get ideas of what you want to sell and which companies you’d like to work with.
When you have your products and partners lined out, you can list them for sale on your Amazon, Ebay, or Shopify storefront. When someone makes a purchase, the wholesaler ships the item directly to the consumer. You never have to worry about stocking an inventory or even storing anything in an Amazon warehouse.
6. Local Marketing
One, is that there is definitely a learning curve to all this marketing stuff, and Local Marketing has its own set of language that you need to learn. Plus, the pressure will be on when you're providing a service to a REAL business, but not quite yet confident in your own skills. It's going to take a bit of self confidence to convince people that YOU can help THEIR business.
Still, this is one of the most rewarding and exciting ventures of the online business world because you'll be helping people in your community. It's also super easy to rank well for “keywords” related to the business because the competition for local keywords is ridiculously low. For example, ranking an article for “wedding planner” is very difficult. Ranking an article for “wedding planner in Anytown, USA” is much easier since there's less competition.
The best thing about local marketing is that once you get one client and have a success, it's pretty easy to get a string of new clients. In fact, most local marketers complain about having too much work because local businesses are so desperate to get ranked on the internet. They need you, and if you can provide them with this service, you can get paid very well for it.
Unrelated to internet marketing, you could essentially freelance any particular skill you have.
Think you have none? You're wrong.
You can probably do research, write an article, make a spreadsheet, or even do voice overs in your native language. You don't have to be a professional to make money at this.
First, you'll need to join a freelancing website. Here are three that I use frequently.
To get started, I recommend browsing around to see if you notice any requests that would be easy for you. Decide on a skill set you want to include in your profile, and make a couple bids for projects. Being a “virtual assistant” doesn't usually pay well, but it can. One VA I hired back in 2012 was $5 per hour to start. Nowadays, she's $20 per hour. She's in demand because she gets work done, speaks great English, and has a diverse skillset related to internet marketing
Being a native English speaker and doing simple things like finishing projects on time, answering emails quickly, and being professional will put you in the top 10% of bidders. Would I rather pay someone $5 per hour that I have to teach or $20 per hour that can start in the next 10 minutes? When I have the money, my vote is for the latter!
Another fantastic option other than being a VA is freelance writing. If you have any writing skills at all, even basic high school essay writing skills, you have a competitive chance in the article writing marketplace.
8. Affiliate Niche Websites
Building small websites on specific topics then growing them to “authority sites” is my version of internet success.
You'll need to choose a topic you're interested in, but be sure to get something that you can write about…a lot. For example
- computer gaming headsets
- herb gardens
- DIY home remedies
- paleo diet
- educational iPad games
- ….and so many more!
But choosing the topic is just your first hurdle. You also need to buy a domain name, set up your website, and figure out what you want to write about. When all that is said and done, you still have to make some sales in order to be profitable. This is what I do, and it's what I teach when I help people get their first affiliate website set up.
I'm no genius. There's no reason you can't repeat my results. Learn to do what I do by signing up for your free affiliate marketing course.
Let's Wrap Things Up
These 8 legitimate ways to make money online can actually make put money into your wallet. These are not just theoretical, or ideas that might work. These are real business strategies. I hope I made everything clear, especially how I earn my own income. I've been doing this consistently for about 8 years now, so don't hesitate to ask me any questions before you get started.